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Buddhism in the United States and People of Color

I recently purchased the documentary "Colors of Compassion", which covers a retreat geared toward people of color in the United States. While all of the speakers were very wise, especially Thich Nhat Hanh, this one's message resonated with me the most.

As a Buddhist of color, I was quite happy to see so many people like me involved in dharma work and practice.

Any thoughts on this video or the growth of dharma in communities of color? I especially like her view on mindful activism!


  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    I would love to increase our diversity in our sangha group, but we don't have any diversity to choose from. We are pretty active in making our group known around town, ads in the papers and such to anyone can come. But our town is like 99.7% white so diversity is hard to come by. I enjoyed the video, good things to think about, thanks for sharing it!
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    I am fortunate to live amongst diversity. However I feel some sectors of society are more welcome than others at our drama dharma centres. :bawl:
    We who follow the rainbow teachings can be reflective of the intent and spirit of the Buddha which was to exclude women . . . oops what a giveaway . . . I meant of the lower castes . . . no still not right . . . the spirit (dharmakaya)
    . . . and include the theistic hordes, the unwashed, the vagabond rinpoche, the dalit and the wannabe Buddhas . . .

    As someone banned from two centres, refused refuge and therefore a heretic and trainee Dalit, I hope to one day be as welcome as any of the Buddhas Aunties
  • MaryAnneMaryAnne Veteran
    edited May 2013
    There was a story on HuffPo about a year or so ago (?) about a few women of color feeling the need to start their own sangha ONLY for people of color.
    The article contained a decent amount of actual quotes from the woman who organized this sangha, and those quotes/reasons sparked a shit-storm of controversy.

    IMO, and in the opinion of many many others, her reasons for doing this - as well as her reasons for excluding white people from her new sangha were so against the grain of Buddhist compassion, understanding and acceptance... well, to be truthful, it was simply her own version of bigotry at work.

    These women of color lived in a city (It might have been Seattle, *IF* I'm remembering correctly), in which they were a small minority of the population at large, and yet they felt "uncomfortable" and "ill at ease with sitting meditating amongst all white people..." WHAT??

    A sangha is a sangha is a sangha. Of course it's going to reflect the level of racial or cultural diversity that surrounds it. To purposely manipulate that diversity to not only lean towards one's favored group, but to exclude others, is .... ??
  • MaryAnneMaryAnne Veteran
    edited May 2013
    To @takuan -- Please pardon if my comment (above) sounded like I was specifically criticizing the retreat and/or the woman in the video you posted. I wasn't.

    My comments were about a different group of people in a different state, and - IMO- with a different agenda than what was stated in your post. I don't know enough about the group in the video to form any opinions....

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    I thought the video was excellent. Good teaching.
  • BeejBeej Human Being Veteran
    I think dividing people into subcategories is counter-intuitive to relieving suffering.
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    I think dividing people into subcategories is counter-intuitive to relieving suffering.

    While I think one has to be careful in doing so, different groups of people are prone to different medical conditions and different emotional environments.

  • BeejBeej Human Being Veteran
    edited May 2013
    Good point @vinlyn. Still, though, it just feels like taking a step backward before going forward, but maybe that is necessary for some people. Whenever these types of divisions are institutionally supported it I think that they should be scrutinized. Though anything that does help people relieve suffering is ultimately good, but what are you trading to get there? I try to look at all people as just people, but these types of divisions remind me that not everybody is afforded that viewpoint. Just points to ponder... but feel free to ignore me, because I was just reminded that i am not a person of "color", because of this very post. :)
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    I tend to agree with you, @TheBeejAbides. I was thinking of unique types of situations. For example, a Buddhist support group for people with sickle cell anemia or a Buddhist support group for people who went through the Cambodian holocaust. Yes, very unique situations, but an example of where a Buddhist group might be appropriate based on culture/ethnicity.
  • edited May 2013
    A fish swims upstream, A bird flys ovehead.
  • karmablueskarmablues Veteran
    edited May 2013
    Takuan said:

    In my experience, I have never once felt uncomfortable around my predominantly white sangha. I've stated this before, when I first walked into the center there were some rather shocked faces. Not like "HIDE YOUR PURSE IT'S A BLACK MAN!", but more like "Oh wow! A Black guy!"

    I was pretty much oh-wowed too when I saw this video:

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    In a somewhat different context, I was thinking/writing about segregations this morning.

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